TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands

TTS23 in the Galapagos Islands
From left to right: Scout, Lindsey, Sophie, Feyza, Erin, Caroline, Lena, Susannah, Charlotte, Rebecca, Allie, Hannah, Alizah, Maisie, Anne, Kate, Courtney

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thank you vicarious supporters, cheerleaders, friends and family for embarking on this journey of The Traveling School - the 23rd semester - as unique as the 1st and as memorable as every semester in between. You trusted our school, our teachers and our mission to give your daughter a new perspective on learning, traveling and friendship. Your support continues to make TTS an amazing organization fueled by passion and curiosity for our surroundings. Thank you for calling, emailing, blogging and visiting the Bozeman office or the program overseas - your comments, questions, thoughts and stories fuel those of us behind the scenes and help us grow and develop our school. Thank you for stepping outside of the box, breaking away from routine and enduring the voyage of the semester. Thank you for inspiring us.

Conratulations to the newest TTS alumnae!
Aunge, Jennifer and Price

Thank you to friends and family of TTS23 for supporting your girls in their journey through Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Thank you for being on the other end of the phone or keyboard to listen and encourage them through challenges of  occasional sickness or sadness, and the stresses of an action-packed schedule. Thank you for also tolerating the times when phone calls and emails were scarce and you had to trust that your daughter was finding the support she needed from within our group and within herself.

Thank you students for throwing yourself into the unknown and being present in all the moments of the semester, for tolerating painfully early wake up times and long travel days and nights, for supporting each other through stress and homesickness, for putting forth genuine effort on traditional and unfamiliar assignments, for laughing and appreciating the humor in the good times as well as the not-so-good, for taking all types of risks - emotional, physical, language, social, and cultural, for allowing yourself to question and grow.

Thank you to the home office in Bozeman, past TTS teachers and students, The Traveling School board members, and to all the supporters of The Traveling School who make this meaningful educational experience possible.

Hugs from the fab 5 teachers!

It is the people of the Traveling School that have kept me coming back to the most challenging and most rewarding job each semester. Thank you to my math students for waking up before breakfast for extra practice and for backpacking graphing calculators through the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca. Thank you to my Spanish students for having the guts to make mistakes in speaking to locals in order to immerse yourselves in the culture and learn more Spanish than seemed possible at the semester's start. Thank you to all my students for reminding me to be be silly sometimes with handstand photos and hacky sack games. Thank you to my Fab 5 teacher team for supporting me and each other in order to create the TTS magic. Thank you to the home office, visiting instructors, and past TTS teachers for support and perspective. Thank you to the friends and family for missing your girls these months and allowing them this adventure. Thank you to all the people who taught us, guided us, and cared for us throughout our South American journey.

One of the most frustrating and beautiful things about being a teacher for The Traveling School is that my job is to plant seeds. This means that in four months I have time to turn your daughter's perceptions of herself and the world she lives in upside down, but that you get to see the effects. A thought, an action, a reflection will not come in front of me, but you, who will be around her for the rest of her life. You will experience the blossoming of these students. As a teacher I must trust that what we do in the field is enough, enough to add to the process you began and will continue to do, enough to inspire, change, and provide the critical tools for your daughters to become powerful women who critically engage with the world. Thank you for the time you gave us with your daughters. My greatest hope is that you cherish the time they spent with us as much as we did. 

Gratitude is a meaningful personal experience.  Too often in my life, I find that I do not take the time or energy to thank the important folks around me for their contributions to my success and/or happiness.  So I am glad that we are writing this blog, because there are people that deserve credit for supporting me on this grand adventure of TTS.  Thanks to the friends and family that supported me previous to and during the semester. I'd like to thank the team at the home office for their confidence and encouragement of my skills. Parents, I appreciate the trust that you gave us by sending your daughter into the unknown with us.  To the students of TTS23, a big thank you for making this semester an incredible learning experience for all involved. Your curiosity and energy have inspired me for three and a half months to push myself as a leader, mentor, and friend. (I feel like I'm on stage at the Oscars, and that the music is going to start playing soon...). I am grateful to the other teachers on the team, for their constant thoughtfulness, support, conversation and intelligence.  Thank you all for being sources of strength in a world with constantly changing environments. Last but not least, the people who will likely never read this post: thank you to the people of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia who have unknowingly shaped and reformed my appreciation of this part of the world.

I am deeply grateful to have shared many meaningful and memorable experiences this semester with TTS23. A profound thank you to the students who afforded me the experience to learn alongside you and from you. Thank you for your thought-provoking questions and stellar work that kept and continues to keep me motivated and inspired.  I am confident that you will each not only continue to accomplish amazing feats, but also do so holding true to your values and ideals, living out answers to the questions Latin America raised for you. Thank you to the TTS23 parents, families, and friends for believing in your daughters and the program and trusting that your daughters' journeys were the worth the sacrifices. Thank you to fellow teachers for your support and encouragement and to the TTS office and board for your tireless commitment to such a valuable vision.  And, of course, mil gracias a  la gente de America Latina, who with their patience and example, allow us to begin to appreciate new perspectives. 

I remember first stumbling upon the TTS website last year around this time and not quite believing it could be possible. An all girls semester school that traveled to South America sounded too good to be true.  As the semester comes to an end, I of course now know that it is possible and it really is that good.  This is because of the many people that make it happen. I am grateful to the girls for embarking on this journey and giving up your comforts of home in order to challenge yourselves to learn about the world.  I want to thank you for smiling when we woke up for our 3:00 am “alpine starts,” for leaving all of your technology behind in order to be truly present with one another, and for letting class conversations be brought up again at dinner time because you wanted to know more.  I want to thank you for keeping alive my passion for Latin America as you learned the nuances of these new cultures.  I also want to thank you for bringing the teachers into your world of enthusiasm for learning, challenging us to rethink our own beliefs and consider new perspectives. Parents, I can’t thank you enough for allowing your daughters to have this experience. Thank you for trusting us with your favorite girls. Thank you teachers. I have observed you staying up late to write thoughtful comments on you students’ papers and waking up early the next day to explain a new concept before breakfast. I want to thank you for your patience, your selflessness, and your passion for the subjects you teach. I was also motivated by everyone who was not traveling with us, but whose energy and time went into making this semester what it was.  Thank you to everyone in the office for listening to us and trusting our decisions in the field. Thank you Aunge, Jennifer, Aunt Heather, and Rick for coming down to see us and for all of the support while you traveled alongside of us.  I will miss all of you, but this experience will stay with me long after we de-board the final plane.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Last Days in La Paz and Beyond

The final week of the semester was spent preparing students for what is often the most challenging aspect of TTS: returning home into an experience of reverse culture shock. Each student discussed her hopes and fears of returning to friends, family, and a way of life that may be seen with new eyes. Would they be interested in the same things as their old friends? Would they be able to relate? Would they be seen as more independent by their parents? Would they be able to have conversations with their parents on the issues they explored? Would they be shocked by the excess of the U.S? Would they be grateful for things previously unappreciated? The many questions were addressed in smaller mentor groups as well as during whole group discussions. Students also brainstormed possible responses to the question "So how was the trip?" Girls considered how to sum up their experience for others in a satisfactory but brief statement, and considered how to engage others in more detailed discussions without falling into the trap of preaching about what they have learned during the semester. They acknowledged that their learning this semester has not made them experts on South American history and culture, but has planted seeds of awareness and curiosity that will motivate them to continue exploring their worlds. Alizah  mentioned how she plans to keep learning about the history and politics of South America through conversations with the many well-traveled customers of the cafe where she works. Courtney has already started conversations with her dad to make connections between his experience in buisiness and her research in Math Concepts. In addition to informal conversations upon retuning home, each girl will give a 30-minute talk to her home high school or other organization about an aspect of her trip. After creating rough outlines, girls met in mentor groups to brainstorm the content and flow of their presentations.

As we finish the semester, several girls are transitioning to college, and many others are beginning to consider potential  post-secondary studies as they look forward to their final years of high school. We conducted a passion workshop consisting of several quick and fun surveys designed to help students to discover what interests them and, equally as important, what motivates them.

Our second-to-last dinner in La Paz was spent laughing to the point of tears recalling memories of fun times throughout the semester, including the awkward and homesick first few days of the trip. Just as TTS22 did for them, the girls of TTS23 wrote letters to the members of TTS24,  intended for the newest TTSers to read within the first few days overseas. The letters provide practical advice as well as general reassurance and encouragement to the next group of Traveling School sisters.

On our final evening in the highest capital city in the world, we began our graduation ceremony with a visioning exercise, where all closed their eyes as teachers led students back through the entire semester, their ups and downs, to appreciate how far each had come. A speech by Paul Hawken was read, calling out to this generation to wake up to the world, to see the earth with a different perspective. Then each student presented a peer with a hand-made envelope, a poem, and words about them. Each girl received a small gift from the teachers, an amulet of the condor, meaning 'bien viaje', or good journey. As the sun set behind the snow-peaked mountains of Bolivia, students stuffed each envelope with their 'warm and fuzzies', final personal notes to each person in the group, which could only be opened and read once alone in the U.S. We walked together to an upscale hotel for an unusually fancy final graduation dinner, tiramisu and chocolate mousse included. Most of the girls stayed up laughing and hanging out until our bus came to whisk us off to the airport at 3 in the morning!

Once at the airport, the teachers handed out their 'letters to self', a letter students wrote to themselves during orientation, bringing the experience full-circle.

We cannot believe how much your daughters have packed into 3 1/2 months in South America. They have honed their traveling and group living skills and learned to go with the flow and seek out learning opportunities that exist all around them. Your daughters are ready to be home to share their experiences with you. We have enjoyed witnessing each student's growth and increased openness to the world around them. We look forward to hearing about their next adventures.

Bien viaje,
Sarah, Heather, Beth, Kate 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day from El Diente

Happy Mother's Day and numerous birthdays from TTS23

Las Americas


Here are the lyrics from the hottest new song to hit TTS! As part of the Intermediate Spanish final, students wrote song lyrics and created a music video. Stay tuned for the video... to be uploaded upon return to the USA!


Las Américas

By Intermediate Spanish TTS 23
-Allison (MT, sophomore), Anne (SC, sophomore), Lena (MD, sophomore), Susannah (ME, sophomore), Kate B (MT, junior)

Yo era una chica quien cantaba como ella caminaba
Yo era una hermana quien no quería ver su hermano sufriendo
Yo era una hija quien solamente sacaba Yo era una persona meditando sobre el mundo

Yo soy usuario de para el media social
Estoy viendo los teléfonos pasan las ruinas
Pero la historia es especial

Yo soy consumidor 
Tomaron la cultura indigena
y Quechua por como los conquistadores
He visto los efectos de la tecnología
Soy una chica, tratando de salvar la cultura

Nuestros energia vamos a asfixiar nosotros
Pero nosotros a un usar los venenos
Quemamos mas de tenemos
Destruimos los lugares que fuimos
Nuestros tierra vamos a cambiar si no hace nada

Sí se puede ignorar el teléfono
Sí se puede seguir adelante buscando una vida magnifica 

Yo aprendí como los montañas tienen un alma
Yo aprendí como el mundo es inclinada
Yo aprendí que yo debo tener un hijo
Yo estoy aprendiendo sobre el mundo

Ella es magnifica y es un arco iris, es la Pacha Mama
Los Incas alababan y se preocupaban por ella
Ahora desconocidos están despedazándole 
Y para siempre la tierra va a ser fea

Soy las montañas del sur y norte
Soy el Puma, condor, y serpiente
Soy el mar abrazando la tierra
Ve la naturaleza, mi cara

Si se puede proteger las selvas del mar y tierra

Yo soy una chica joven y estoy manejando 
en la carretera mientras me quejo 
sobre lo alto del precio del petróleo
Sin embargo, no reparo en que muy pronto
el petróleo escaseará en el mundo

He visto los efectos de la extracción petróleo
Ha destruido las casas y la cultura de la gente
Huarani en la Amazonia de Ecuador y el lago de Alaska
El petróleo es destructivo contamina la tierra
He dicho el petróleo es terrible
Es tiempo de actuar en las Americas ahora

Soy una chica blanca de una ciudad
Conducía malgastando el petróleo del pueblo
No Pensé que hubiera la posibilidad 
de que alguna mujer, chica, niño 
podrían estar muriendo por una enfermedad
(Kate B)

Las maquinas rompe mi cuerpo
Han robado me oro negro
Hay veneno en mar y aire
¿Quien hizo petróleo el rey?

Petróleo es la droga del mundo 
No es hoja de coca para hacer cocaína
No es junto que es alucinógeno 
La gente de las Americas debe encontrar una droga
que sea buena para la mente y cuerpo
(Kate B)

Sí se puede terminar perforando 
Sí se puedo trabajar por un futuro mejor

Yo soy ahora una padre trabajando en el sol
Yo estoy ganando dinero por mi familia para tener comida
Yo soy ahora una chica que corre tras personas para lustrar los zapatos
Yo soy todavia una persona entiendo la vida

Soy un soldado valiente 
luchando y pulsando por mi gente
Hoy marchamos firmes como personas fuertes
por lo que creemos- salvando las huertas
Voy a luchar para ganar

Somos de Huaraz, Lima, y Cusco
Somos uno
Ambos están tratado 
con opresión en Peru
Ambos están esforzando
devenir un país de paz
Un país que se llama Peru

Hay opresión en las Américas
He visto a personas que trabajan en las fábricas
Las personas indígenas de quien se robaron de su tierra
Han forcado vivir en casas concreto sin madera

Sí se puedo trabajar juntos
Sí se puede sentir el amor

Soy el patrón mas fiero de la comunidad
inspeccionando mis campos de coca
Mis trabajadores desean igualdad
Yo pienso que es una idea loca

Nadie quiere darles una mano!
¿Porque las Américas sufrieron?
Sigan no mas con su vida placentera
Cuando hay personas sufriendo
(Kate B)

Sí se puedo cambiar la perspectiva

Sí se puede aprender sobre personas del mundo

Sunday, May 11, 2014

And she is almost home...

Dear TTS23 followers,

Wow! It’s hard to believe the semester is wrapping up, fifteen weeks came and went and your daughter will start her journey home in a few days. On Friday the group left for their final outdoor pursuit, mountaineering in the Cordillera Real outside of La Paz, Bolivia. They set up base camp on
the edge of a beautiful lagoon and practiced various mountaineering techniques on the glacier  during snow school on Saturday. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, everyone will emerge from their tents with headlamps on to begin their summit attempt of El Diente. Students will support one another through the expedition and challenge themselves personally as they recognize the inner strength developed over the past 15 weeks. On Monday the group will return to La Paz for final souvenir shopping excursions, packing and graduation dinner before leaving on a jet plane early Wednesday morning.
The group began their transitions with reflections and through various activities and discussions will process what it will be like when they actually get home. Together they will talk about the fear of transformation, the power of experiential education, how to be a humble global citizen and how to engage in conversations about the semester with friends, family and acquaintances. Each girl trusts that you will be there to listen about the whole journey, but doesn’t know how her friends will react. Teachers helped each student think about how to respond to the very big (and very common) question, “So, how was South America?” In the final days of TTS your daughter will learn how to gauge who wants the 30 second response, the 5 minute response and the in depth response.
For those of us back home, it's also time to focus on the girls’ transition home. The teachers have given each student time to plan and practice her final Global Studies presentation she will give when she gets home. The girls planned their Zenith Project as a way to share their experiences and to find a way to give back to groups and people they’ve met during their travels. The girls are excited and nervous to see everyone and can’t wait to walk through their front doors.  They had an amazing semester, and we are all excited for them to share it with you at home in the coming weeks. When your daughter arrives home next week, here are some things to consider in helping her adjust:

1) The girls are often nervous for the first impression when they get off of the plane. They may have already planned their "flight clothes" and are anxious about what everyone will say.  Despite the fact that they are strong and beautiful as ever, they are scared to hear they are "different" somehow. The girls can be fragile to your comments, and we think parents often don’t give themselves enough credit for how much their words influence and affect their daughters. We're sure you are all very excited to see them.  What we see compared with the girls who joined us three and a half months ago is immeasurable - they are confident, proud, strong, and happy - we're sure you'll find the same.

2) It is often difficult for students to find the words to talk about their semester. It has been a very full 15 weeks with highs and lows and everything in between. The stories will come out slowly, perhaps over dinner or during a long car ride. When they download their pictures, it is a perfect chance to sit down and spend a few hours hearing about their adventures.  It will help them if you ask specific questions – What were your Top Ten highlights of the semester? What word would you use to describe each girl? What was your favorite class? Talk about the people who influenced you during the semester. What outdoor activities did you like? Which parts of the semester were most challenging? It may be helpful for them to pick out special photos to create a book from the semester.
3) The girls are very excited for their first meal, to sleep in their beds for the first time, and to see their friends and family.  It is not unusual for them to struggle a bit following all of the excitement of coming home. They have talked about this together, and please let them know that we (at the Traveling School office and their teachers) are all here for them if they have a low point after their return.  They've learned how to take the skills and experiences they had in South America and transfer them back to their lives at home, and we've given them the tools to help make this happen.  They should have very successful re-entries, and we want to help if they experience any bumps along the way. They may want to seek out opportunities in their home communities for service or continue to study the region or to find ways to talk about their experiences. They might want to find a club or team to continue with a sport they learned throughout the semester.

4) The girls have been working on their final presentations for Global Studies class. This is a crucial piece for the girls to help with the transition home. They have all developed outlines of their presentations and have already practiced several times in class before they return home. The girls are prepared to give the presentation as soon as possible.  As I mentioned, this final activity is an important part of the transition home.  It is designed to give your daughter a formal presentation to share her experience with her peers. The sooner she does it, the easier her transition home will be. Students know the deadline for this presentation and many of you helped solidify presentation dates with their schools. This presentation should be videotaped, uploaded and emailed to the teachers for their final Global Studies grade. If your daughter has any difficulties she should feel free to contact the teachers or our office.

We recognize your daughter’s adjustment to coming home is a significant change. For many of the girls, this is the first (of many) major life transition. She had an experience which will forever be part of who she is. As each girl returns home she will react differently; she might go through a period of quiet mourning and grieving for the end of her Traveling School experience, before she transitions into her next life phase or adventure. As parents, you can support your daughter by helping her to understand transition is a part of life. Right now, she is leaving her Traveling School semester and her TTS23 sisterhood. Soon, she will leave high school. And the love and support from your family will be what helps your daughter work through these transitions successfully. 
As sad as it is for us to say goodbye to these 17 amazing young ladies, we know you are all excited to see them back home. The group will land in Miami on Wednesday evening. Some students will continue the final leg of her journey the same evening; others will stay at a hotel with the teachers and continue on their way on Thursday. After you have caught up and she has settled back in, please let us know how things are going. We love to hear your reports and updates.  
What the group experienced and learned this semester is priceless, and each of your daughters knows she is lucky you have given her this opportunity. We also feel lucky to have gotten to share the semester with all of you. Thank you for entrusting The Traveling School with your daughters; we look forward to being in their lives for years to come.

Best wishes,

Jennifer, Aunge and Price 

Lisa Law's Pics from parental trip - sorry for the delay (technical issues)

I'm sure you're all as excited as we are to have our girls back! Here are some photos that Lisa took on the parent trip to Peru.

Good luck to the girls on their mountain climbing this week!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

trekking through journalistic lens

The students of Travel Journalism enjoyed their opportunity to share about their experiences during the Santa Cruz trek, and so they are excited to update you again! This time, they have chosen to experiment with blogging as journalism by shifting the format of their writing. As a group, the students pre-planned thematic topics related to their anticipated experience, and conducted observations and interviews throughout the Lares Trek towards Machu Picchu. The following is a weaving of content they produced...

And We're Off! - Beginning the Journey to Machu Picchu” by Scout, Connecticut, Senior

After a few busy days in Cuzco, which encompassed a series of clinic visits, time with parents, perusing market stalls, and a number of emotional ups and downs, TTS (+ parents) once again prepared to hit the trail. Following lots of packing and repacking, at seven o'clock Saturday morning there was a pile of duffles, backpacks, and TTS girls ready and waiting to load the bus. After two and a half hours of windy roads and conversation, with the occasional stop to pick up another one of Puma's family members, we arrived at the trail head. Upon finishing up the last of the packing process, which included the loading of gear onto some 32 horses, our 40 plus collective feet began the steady uphill towards our first campsite set high in the mountains. [Don't forget to read the rest of Scout's post, which describes the end of the adventure!]

Pumaisms” by Feyza, Iowa, Junior

“Today is the best day of our lives,” Puma would say at the start of each morning, motivating us to embrace the next 24 hours with enthusiasm and appreciation. Puma'a wise anecdotes, shamanic wisdom, love and positivity towards life, and wonderfully warm and compassionate crew contributed a special layer to the parent trip and our Machu Picchu visit, creating an unforgettable time.
Before our Inca adventure, Puma introduced us to his family referring to his son as his “latest reincarnation” and his wife as “the woman I have chosen to share my life with.” He demonstrated a shamanic ceremony, letting everyone set an intention for the coming days. During our trek to Machu Picchu , his crew provided elaborate three course meals, enchanting flute music while we hiked, and a supportive loving family atmosphere. Puma would share advice such as, “everything goes two ways” or “listen to yourself first, and last.” We were impressed with how the crew brought a few of their children and a baby who were all easy going and enjoyable to be with. One ritual Puma showed us during the Lares trek was a group activity to help us stay in the present. We would stand in a circle all holding hands and repeat “hampui”: while saying this, we would start with our hands up, and bringing them down, we emphasized the moment we were in. The whole group absorbed Puma's wisdom on life, medicine, and nature, diligently drinking avocado pit tea when they felt ill, or listening to Puma when he would say “we walk with Pachamama (mother earth) not on Pachamama.”
While at Machu Picchu, Puma educated us on Incan and pre-Incan history. Between his explanation on how the Incans moved massive rocks by blowing one hundred conch shells, to showing us his favorite spot where one can stand on a small rock and feel as though they can fly like a condor, we left Machu Picchu satisfied. Despite the thousands of tourists and hundreds of guides, Puma had shared with us an experience no one else could, creating another day that was “the best day of our lives.”

Striking Spirituality” by Allison, Montana, Sophomore
Two days before we left for our two day long backpacking trip on the Lares Trek, we went on a spiritual journey with our guides. The ceremony that they performed was to ask for permission from the mountain spirits to climb the pass and ask for good fortunes on our upcoming trek. Two of our guides initiated the ceremony by placing out offerings such as cookies, chocolates, money and seeds. After that, they gave each of us three coca leaves to which we stated our intentions and hopes for our upcoming journey. The three leaves represent the condor, puma, and serpent which are animals that portray one's spirit, physical body and consciousness, respectively. We did a similar ceremony at our first stop on the trail, but we only stated our intentions and placed our leaves in a creek running by the resting place.
Trudging up the steep trail, a thought flitted through my head of, “I can't do this.” Just then, mystical music floated to my ears making me feel lighter and more encouraged to move forward. I searched for the source of the music and saw one of our guides playing a beautifully crafted wooden flute. The music carried our group forward up the steep, rocky terrain and gave a sense of hope and peace.
Over the course of the trek, I received a plethora of information about the sacredness of this trek from Puma and our other guides. On our second and last day, we climbed about a 15,000 foot pass, the highest elevation we have experienced this entire trip. At our first break, Puma told us each to find a small rock and carry it to the top of the pass. When we reached the top, we were instructed to leave our rock there with a wish, intention, or something we want to leave behind. As everyone trickled onto the mountaintop, Puma explained how passes are like portals for your soul. When you are on one side of it, you are still your old self, but when you cross over, you become a new person - the person you want to be. Also on the top of the pass is one of three crosses in the entire mountain range which stretches from Chile all the way to the North American Rockies. The cross was brought up by the Spaniards, is dressed in colorful clothing, and has a face with a crown on top. Puma described to us how native people of Peru wake up at 12 in the morning, do the entire hike in four hours and are at the top of the pass to see the sun rise over the sacred valley.
The entire trek was a truly magical experience. I felt like I was a part of something, something that had been sacred hundreds of years before I was born. Pre-incans, Incans, Quechua people, citizens of Peru and tourists have all climbed this phenomenal trek to feel the sacredness and spirituality woven into the valley.

The Rhythm of Decadence” by Charlotte, Virginia, Sophomore

The encouraging trail of Puma's flute receded as a congratulatory chorus overtook its shrill notes. The sight of our campsite for the first night of our trek induced rejuvenated cheers, grateful sighs, and joyous high fives. The sea of red, blue, and tan tents set up by our abundance of arrieros along with the oblong dining tent dotted the green mountain's gentle slope. Our parade of thirty two horses, cook crew, and horsemen had preceded our arrival and prepared the campsite for our stay.
The initial euphoria of accomplishment gradually faded for TTS girls and their parents. We added base layers, wool hats, and extra socks as insulation. We set out sleeping bags onto firmly blown pads and ventured to the river to refill our water bottles. The guides set bowls of hot water outside to wash our hands. The evening on the Lares Trek proved chilly as we expected. I felt grateful for the close proximity of the dining tent. “The dining tent is always there to warm me up with hot chocolate,” Anne Fawcett related. Three long tables brimmed with boxes of tea, silverware, giant thermoses of boiled water, stools, tin cups, and bags of powdered milk. Cook crew served rounds of soup, platters of rice, vegetables, and chicken, and bowls of chocolate pudding. Sophie, chieflet for the day, proposed a dinner discussion of our favorite carbohydrates. Shivers disappeared as we passed steamy mugs and created bonds within our extended group. Although dimly lit by candles, the tent felt bright with a content but sleepy energy.
The morning arrived quickly and ensued with the guides' good morning calls. Parents and siblings stuffed their duffels and zipped them shut. Girls shoved clothes and gear deep into our lightened packs. Trays of bread and bottles of yogurt circulated the breakfast tables while more and more faces ventured into the tent. Puma's optimistic voice greeted us with his favorite words, “today is the best day of our lives.” Once duffels were stacked and ready to be loaded, the group gathered to leave. Parents outfitted with hiking poles and girls with tightly strapped packs departed to start the adventure of trekking with the promise of finding the lunch tent soon.
TTS' first glimpse at glamping (glamor camping) came as a surprise. Allie Stevens explained, “I have never heard of the term 'glamping' before, but I have been camping my whole life.” After the pure form of camping we partook in during the Santa Cruz trek, the Lares trek felt luxurious. From our downsized packs, plethora of guides, three course meals, and a herd of horses drooping with gear, the experience was decadent and less strenuous. With the circumstances and company of the parents, glamping provided a treat.

Trekking Triumphs via Trail and Terrain” by Alizah, New York, Senior

The Traveling School – now encompassing eleven moms, dads, siblings, and a portion of Puma's extended family – began our trek by bus. Despite a 5:30 wake up, it was among our most chatter-filled rides yet as we raced to get to know the new faces surrounding us. Our two and a half hour journey was punctuated by stops so brief that the bus seemed to do no more than slow down; during each, new members of Puma's family would jump aboard, smilingly introduce themselves, and proceed to weave through the aisles and hug every one of the bus' occupants.
We came to our first substantial stop at the base of a winding dirt road, where we swung the familiar weight of our packs onto our backs and helped the parents to do the same. With a mix of eagerness and apprehension, we began our ascent to the Lares Trek's pass. The uncovered dirt road soon gave way to a steep, forested trail along which the overhang of trees diligently shaded us from the intensifying sun. Our steps gradually became steeper as the trail climbed, yet the hum of conversation never quieted (though it was increasingly interspersed by panting). Our group – which now walked in single file as the trees framing our path grew closer together – stretched nearly a quarter mile back from start to finish. At each rare but warmly regarded plateau, we'd shed another of the morning's many layers, refill our water supply in the river that unfailingly flowed alongside us, and catch our breath just enough to articulate “BAM,” drawing the rest of the group's attention to the sweeping valleys, waterfalls, and cloud-tipped mountains surrounding us.
The next four hours of steady ascension pulled us out of dense forest into open valley views as the trail – now rockier but no less steep – wove along the periphery of the Lares trail. As we approached lunch, which proved more difficult to find than expected, we crossed back and forth over the river using improvised boulder bridges. Full and reinvigorated, we finished our post-lunch climb expediently and in good spirits, finally arriving at camp after a nearly seven hour day of hiking. Our tents, surrounded by towering boulders, sat just below our final destination of 15,800 feet, an elevation that threatened to put Santa Cruz's 14,250 feet to shame.
After an equally early morning, we left our extensive campsite behind and set off for the pass. In our steepest ascent yet, we gradually conquered the distance separating us from our goal; the knowledge that our final push would give way to a day of downhill made the seemingly endless switchbacks ahead less ominous. Finally, legs aching and cheeks pink, we reached the elevation-apogee of our trip so far.
After an obligatory photo, Nature Valley bar, and shamanic rock ceremony break, we began our descent, calling upon muscles that had been forgotten in our climb. The Trail's initial steepness never wavered, giving way to innumerable pants-staining butt-slides. Tentatively, we descended steep rock steps, frequently stopping to peel on and off rain ear as the sky vacillated between extremes. The downward sloping terrain, though daunting in its own way, allowed for conversation and trail games as the group's order reshuffled. Exhausted, we reached lunch, refueling in preparation for three final hours. Two sporadic rain showers, three lake sightings, and some not-so-graceful falls later, we finally arrived at the road that had been taunting us in the distance. Both exhausted and relieved, our group reunited, looking back at the eighteen miles we had come.

Sick Days in Cusco” by Courtney, New Jersey, Senior

We looked at the vast and sunny city of Cusco from the tight balcony of the “Choco Museo.” As I sipped chocolate tea with my mother, I pictured myself on the Lares Trek with bruised hips, freshly blistered feet, and a queasy stomach. With another taste of my hot, flavorful beverage, I began to come to terms with the microscopic villain living in my intestines.
The day started lazily, when I rolled awake at 9:30 in the Royal Inka Hotel, dubbed as “The Parent Hotel,” by my TTS classmates and teachers. For breakfast my mother and I strolled across the Plaza to a quaint French bakery. We welcomed the day with warm croissants, blueberry jam, and fresh coffee. “What shall we do today?” my mother asked, as I savored my croissant. I shrugged, uneasy with the control I suddenly had over my schedule. After two and a half months of living with my high school, the concept of planning my own day felt foreign and strange.
It was decided that Heather F., the teacher that stayed back with us “sickies,” would take my mother and I to the local market. The smiling vendors at the market proudly displayed everything from vegetables to shaman tools in a maze of organized sections. The smell of fresh bread and juice hung in the air. With purchases of pottery and earrings, we exited the chaotic and colorful labyrinth. We wandered through the cobble stone streets, eventually ending up at “Jack's.” Lunch at Jack's consisted of hot sandwiches, caramelized banana pancakes, and the enormous mango frappe I ordered. With our stomachs and money belts full, we shopped around the streets packed with alpaca sweaters, sparkly earrings, colorful scarves, stylish bracelets, and leather purses. My and my mother headed back with our arms full of fuzzy sweaters.
When we returned to the Hotel, I felt a strange mix of exhaustion and appreciation. Lucky to be sick in a place as interesting and vibrant as Cusco. Before trudging up to our hotel room, my mother treated me to a haircut at the hotel's salon. With a quick scrub and an intense blow-drying session, I lost recognition of the girl with straight hair staring back at me. Having smooth and tangle-free hair was another strange concept that I hadn't encountered during TTS.
After a dinner of hot chicken noodle soup in the hotel dining room, I abruptly collapsed onto my giant bed. With my soft hair, new sweater, and grumbling stomach, I felt like a Peruvian princess with a parasite. Sick days in Cusco aren't so bad.

Condors, clouds and civilizations” by Rebecca, Montana, Junior
Entering the gates into Machu Picchu, my preconceived notion of one of the seven wonders of the world was built on the photos I had seen on postcards and the images on my computer screen. Displaying my passport photo I, along with two-thousand tourists, entered the ancient Incan ruins for the day. The group divided into parents/siblings and students for our morning tour. The clouds covered everything past our foot-trail, groggily walking, camera in hand, while following our guide Puma, the mist cover laid over the land like a blanket. We paused to admire the scenery as Puma said, “Chicas don't ever wonder what heaven looks like-you are looking at it.” We continued along the tour, taking photos through ancient rectangular windows and pausing to learn about the significance of certain rocks or structures. At one point, Puma proclaimed it was his favorite spot in Machu Picchu: we stood overlooking the valley and towering mountain peaks protruding from the hillside was a small rock ledge. Every member in our group took turns standing with arms spread and feet staggered, overlooking the magnificent views. We felt the magnetic field while standing on the ledge. Through tiny quivers and shakes within our legs the feeling of unbalanced flight was attained. Next, with squinted eyes, we gazed upon a boulder that on the right side depicted a spectacled bear face. We each stepped up to admire the stone and then wrapped our arms around the bear's profile. A hug given to the cool piece of stone is supposed to heal the individual. Continuing along the trail and climbing up steep stone steps we learned that Machu Picchu is in the shape of a condor, a bird representing Andean spirituality. Puma stated that in order for each of us to be a fulfilled person we must travel with a part of the condor, symbolizing spirit, puma representing physical body and serpent depicting conscious mind. “Only when one reaches this state of happiness, can they be of best service to others.” As our tour came to a close we approached the “Facebook photo” viewpoint overlooking all of Machu Picchu. Group photos were taken with our seniors throwing sun-hats for a graduation picture. Personally, I was posing for the camera in front of centuries of civilization without realizing the magnitude held in the sights I saw. After the initial frenzy died down, I was able to go off in a small group and gaze in silence at the true splendor of the architecture the Incans created. In that moment, I felt alone in my thoughts although still surrounded by people of diverse backgrounds. The impact of Machu Picchu is dependent upon the viewer. Perceived through my own eyes, the power of Machu Picchu was an extraordinary experience and I would love for the opportunity to visit again in the future.

Trains, Buses, and Cuzcan Afternoons – Our Journey Back” by Scout, Connecticut, Senior

Once again shouldering our bags, we began our lengthy procession back to the train station to board the Harry Potter-esque Inka Railroad tat would take us out of the Machu Picchu mist and back to the rest of Peru. Students filled their time with naps and reading, while parents slept and shared pictures or conversation. Almost two hours later, the TTS contingency emerged onto the sunny platform bleary eyed and a little disheveled, and headed towards the bus. Much like the train, the bus time was filled with napping. Interrupted only by a brief stop at a local chicheria to learn about the traditional fermented corn drink, and a fancy buffet lunch, we ascended the windy roads back to Cuzco. Upon arriving at the hotel, we said goodbye to Rick and Jennifer who would be home-bound that afternoon, and divided to conquer math classes, explore the markets and shops, or spend a final evening with parents. The journey to Machu Picchu concluded with good moods, unpacking, and a good night's sleep before beginning the next few days of classes.